By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On back-to-back nights, capacity crowds filed into Rec Hall to watch the No. 4-ranked Nittany Lion women's volleyball team take down two top volleyball programs.
First, the Nittany Lions ousted No. 9 Stanford in five sets, playing more than
two and a half hours of volleyball amidst 5,017 fans on Friday night. Not only
was the victory Penn State's fourth straight win, but also the first time that
the Lions defeated Stanford since the 2008 NCAA Championship match.
Junior right-side hitter Ariel Scott posted 26 kills and was the go-to girl on the offense while sophomore defensive specialist Lacey Fuller got a special nod from Penn State head coach Russ Rose for her timely play in the back row and a tally of 10 digs.
The next evening, Penn State matched up against an even higher-ranked powerhouse in No. 2 Texas. The Longhorns came out swinging and kept the Lions on their toes, but Penn State pushed the pace and swept Texas in front of another capacity crowd in Rec Hall.
Scott led the Lions' offense, again, with a match-high 12 kills against the Longhorns and junior outside hitter Deja McClendon followed with 11 to add to the attack. Fuller continued to control the back-row with nine key digs alongside freshman outside hitter Megan Courtney who subdued eight big swings from the Texas offense.
After a winning weekend that puts Penn State at a perfect 5-0 mark to start the 2012 season, coach Rose said that he was frankly just impressed.
"We beat a good team with a great crowd again in Rec Hall and it's a progression for sure," said Rose.
Rose noted the strong play and composure of Courtney in particular, who was the only freshman that started and remained in the entire match on Saturday night.
"I thought she passed well," Rose said of Courtney. "She's a very relaxed passer and she takes some good swings. She hit .530 and didn't have any hitting errors so that's a good thing. The three service errors weren't her best offering but she did some things well and we needed her to do that."
Although it was her debut weekend in Rec Hall as a student-athlete, Courtney said that she already feels right at home at a school that she had been planning on attending for several years in advance.
"I've been here a lot," said Courtney. "I knew I was coming here since my sophomore year so I've seen the atmosphere a lot. Just getting on the court and getting a feel for it was pretty easy coming in. All of the girls are so helpful telling me where to go and helping me out."
The weekend tournament proved to be what Rose said was a good test for his team. The head coach said that after seeing what he saw from his team, it is helpful to know more than he did just one short week ago.
But Rose is by no means singing praises just yet. The tenured Nittany Lion coach knows that his team's season had only just begun.
"Our focus from day one is that we have to play well as a team, we have to be conscious of errors and we have to compete," said Rose. "We won't look back because we have to play for the next 12 weekends so it's a long way."